Monday, June 18, 2012
Sunday, June 17: Happy Father’s Day, Ron! (Gave him an Illustrated Robert Service; after having been in Dawson and the area, the photos are familiar places.) Slept pretty well in the Passat—nice and warm; we both wore our eye masks. It was light when we went to bed at midnight. Before leaving, Ron wanted to go see Dredge #4, a Park Service site of the largest wooden-hulled dredge in North America. Ron reports: "I talked my poor wife into accompanying me to the site as it is the last year tours will be given on and in the barge; next year it will be look from the outside only. We will call our tour guide Faye, but she is the Einstein of gold-digging barges. What a tour! After she was done with us I think I could run one by myself. It cost over $400,00 to build in 1912 and took two years, but once it got running, it produced over $80,000,000 in gold at $20 an ounce over a 40-year span. At $1600 an ounce now, you do the math! There actually is a very modern gold rush going on now. Last year $92 million was taken out of the Dawson area." Saw a little black bear on our way back to Dawson, then drove to the top of Dome Mountain. We could see all of Dawson below, and the Top of the World Highway that we would be taking today. Nice trip over the Yukon on the ferry, then off we head for Tok on what’s called a ridge road ‘cause it’s over the mountains rather than in the valleys. The road is good and wide, some paved, some gravel and on a side road we see our first grizzly! We see snow again and the shadows of the clouds on the mountains are beautiful. We are traveling above the treeline. The vistas are stupendous and soon we reach the border, the most northerly crossing into the US. The road narrows and is dirt, very twisty, and no guardrails—I am a little nervous, and then it starts to rain, so now it’s slick besides. God bless my good driver—he is unflappable! But I think he is as relieved as I am to reach Chicken Alaska and hot food. (I’m told they were going to name the town Ptarmigan cause they ate so much of it there, but they weren’t sure how to spell it; everyone knew how to spell Chicken, and it kind of tasted like that anyway!) The road improves into Tok. We pass a huge area of burn (the growth is scant because of the permafrost—now it really looks barren) and then roadcuts that are like dunes—really strange. We find the Golden Bear Resort—the staff is so friendly! Time for a hot shower and a hot meal! PS by Ron: The folks I heard talk about the Top of the World Highwas as a nice ride on a good gravel road must have been raised up herding Dall Sheep from mountain top to mountain top where ther is no oxygen. After we finished the run from the US border to the first town of Chicken, I call it the "urine, feces and vomit highway" and it was all in the fron seat of our car to prove it!